Bullseye (partially found coverage of professional darts tournaments; 1979-1981)

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Bullseye logo.

Status: Partially Found

Bullseye was a professional darts tournament sanctioned by and broadcast on BBC Two. Three tournaments were held from 1979 to 1981, pitting the sixteen best professional darts players in a knockout format. Tony Sontag was the inaugural champion, with Jocky Wilson later winning back-to-back titles. Episodes were aired during night timeslots, with most footage having since become lost media.


Bullseye has been compared to Pot Black.[1][2] Both shows aimed to capitalise on the exploding popularity of darts and snooker respectively in Britain, with their tournaments designed around the needs of BBC television.[3][1] In Bullseye's case, the top 16 darts players were invited to compete in a best of 11 legs knockout tournament, to earn the BBC2 Bullseye Trophy and £1,000.[4] Throughout its lifespan, Bullseye was presented by Peter Purves, who was also a Blue Peter presenter, the voice of Crufts and portrayed Steven Taylor in Doctor Who.[5][4] Sid Waddell and Tony Green provided commentary, Waddell having also established The Indoor League for ITV television, while Green was a prominent British Darts Organisation official.[6][7][4]

The inaugural edition commenced from 4th May to 22nd June 1979.[4] All eight episodes aired after 10 p.m. and harnessed the tournament's quickfire nature, airing highlights from two games condensed to fit within a 30-minute broadcast.[4] The 1980 tournament offered a £2,000 cash prize, and, likely due to darts' growing popularity, was broadcast between 18:30 to 18:45 p.m.[8] The final edition retained the same format and prize money but was now relegated to late-night timeslots, indicating the show's impending discontinuation.[9] Three weeks following the BBC tournament's final airing, the ITV game show of the same name began its long run.[10][1] It almost immediately overshadowed its BBC Two counterpart, and ironically featured Green as the darts commentator alongside host Jim Bowen.[1][7]

The Tournaments

The Bullseye tournaments have received less documentation compared to other darts competitions.[11] Particularly, Darts Database only provided the Final and a few earlier round results.[11] Nevertheless, Radio Times issues help determine the majority of results.[4][8][9]

The 1979 edition began with then-BDO World Darts Champion John Lowe suffering a surprise early exit against Bill Lennard. Colin Baker overcame Australia's top player Barry Atkinson, Tony Brown beat Cliff Lazarenko, while American Tony Sontag outmatched Ron Davis. Tony Ridler overcame Alan Glazier, while another favourite, Eric Bristow, was eliminated by Tim Stedman. Nick Virachkul edged out Jocky Wilson, and the first round concluded with Leighton Rees beating Stephan Lord. In the quarter-finals, Baker beat Lennard, while a battle of Tonys saw Sontag beat Brown. Stedman defeated Ridler and Virachkul outmatched Rees. Sontag was now the only non-Englishman in the tournament, defeating Brown to reach the Final. He then claimed the title by beating Stedman 6-1.[11][2][4] Sontag peaked around 1978 to 1980, winning the 1980 Swedish Open, finishing runners-up in the 1980 Dutch Open, and reaching the last 16 of that year's BDO World Championship.[12][13][2] He suffered a decline later in the 1980s, though did reach two semi-finals in 1986.[2][12][13] During that time period, he operated a roofing company.[13]

1980 witnessed a grudge match as 1978 and 1979 finalists Rees and Lowe did battle, with the latter prevailing. Lazarenko eliminated Alan Evans, while reigning World Champion Bristow took out Ray Cornibert. 1980 runners-up Bobby George beat Tim Brown, while Ceri Morgan and Allan Hogg defeated News of the World and World Cup Singles Champions Stefan Lord and Virachkul respectively. Round 1 concluded with Tony Brown defeating Daniel Serie, while Wilson knocked out defending champion Sontag. The first quarter-finals pitted 1980 World Championship re-matches; Lowe again lost to Lazarenko, while George was unable to avenge his Final loss to Bristow.[14] Meanwhile, Morgan beat Hogg and Wilson overcame Brown. In the semi-finals, Bristow defeated Lazarenko while Wilson dumped out surprise package Morgan.[15][8]

As both Bristow and Wilson were regarded for their recent performances, a close Final was expected.[8] This certainly proved the case.[15] Despite Bristow and especially Jocky reflecting darts culture by overly indulging in cigarettes and alcohol, both remained competitive.[15] Wilson expressed his nervousness heading into the clash, while Bristow aimed to maintain his 100% winning record over the Scotsman. Ultimately, with the score at 5-5, Bristow narrowly missed out on victory by failing to land double 20. It allowed Wilson to hit 18, 17, and double 20 to get out on 75 and finally defeat the World Champion.[15][11] Bristow and Wilson's famous yet otherwise friendly rivalry carried on throughout the 1980s.[16][15]

The 1981 edition was promoted as an international tournament, featuring British, American, Canadian, Belgian, Swedish, and Singaporean competitors.[9] In Round 1, Lord beat Luc Marrell, while Bristow eliminated Morgan. Lowe and Rees defeated Bullseye debutants Billy Mateer and Paul Lim respectively. A North American clash saw Robert Sinnaeve upset Jerry Umberger, as Lazarenko defeated Dave Whitcombe in the battle of Englishmen. Wilson kickstarted his title defence with a win over Tony Brown, while George beat Evans. In the quarter-finals, Lord pulled off a shock win over Bristow, while Lowe and Rees resumed their rivalry with the former again winning. Lowe outmatched George before beating either Lazarenko or Sinnaeve to reach his second consecutive Final. There he met Lowe, who beat Lord in the semi-finals.[9] It was another close affair, ultimately seeing Wilson edge out Lowe 6-5 for back-to-back titles.[11] Outside of Bullseye, Wilson enjoyed an illustrious career, winning the 1982 and 1989 World Championships.[17][16] He also credited Bullseye as the catalyst for his career and his overall image in the sport.[18]


The Bullseye tournaments were held after the BBC had implemented its archiving policy in 1978, thus mostly ending its tape-wiping practices.[19] It is, therefore, possible Bullseye was exempt from being wiped, though the tournaments have fallen into relative obscurity, in part thanks to the ITV game show. Highlights of the 1980 Final and the show's intro sequence can be found on YouTube. Additionally, the British Film Institute holds a copy of the 25th May 1979 broadcast, containing the Wilson-Virachkul and Rees-Lord matches. Little else is currently available to the public.[20][4]



Highlights of the 1980 Final.

Intro sequence.

See Also

External Links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 UK Game Shows comparing Bullseye to Pot Black and noting the ITV game show arose three weeks after the BBC tournament's final broadcast. Retrieved 1st Oct '23
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Darts World summarising Sontag's career and comparing the tournament to Pot Black. Retrieved 1st Oct '23
  3. Professional Darts Players Association detailing the history of darts in Britain, including its rise in popularity in the 1970s. Retrieved 1st Oct '23
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 BBC Genome archive of Radio Times issues previewing the eight 1979 episodes. Retrieved 1st Oct '23
  5. Champion Speakers biography on Peter Purves. Retrieved 1st Oct '23
  6. Global Darts page on Sid Waddell. Retrieved 1st Oct '23
  7. 7.0 7.1 Global Darts page on Tony Green. Retrieved 1st Oct '23
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 BBC Genome archive of Radio Times issues previewing the eight 1980 episodes. Retrieved 1st Oct '23
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 BBC Genome archive of Radio Times issues previewing the eight 1981 episodes. Retrieved 1st Oct '23
  10. The Little Book of Darts noting how ITV's Bullseye started airing three weeks following the end of BBC Two's counterpart. Retrieved 1st Oct '23
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 Darts Database summarising the winners of each tournament. Retrieved 1st Oct '23
  12. 12.0 12.1 Archived Darts Database detailing Sontag's accomplishments. Retrieved 1st Oct '23
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Dr Patrick Chaplin page on Sontag. Retrieved 1st Oct '23
  14. Archived Darts Database detailing the results of the 1980 BDO World Darts Championship. Retrieved 1st Oct '23
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 Bellies and Bullseyes: The Outrageous True Story of Darts detailing Wilson's run to the 1980 Final and his match against Bristow. Retrieved 1st Oct '23
  16. 16.0 16.1 The Courier documenting Wilson's career and his rivalry with Bristow. Retrieved 1st Oct '23
  17. Archived Darts Database listing Wilson's accomplishments. Retrieved 1st Oct '23
  18. Jocky where Wilson expressed the importance of Bullseye on his career. Retrieved 1st Oct '23
  19. The Sundae detailing the BBC's tape-wiping practices. Retrieved 1st Oct '23
  20. British Film Institute stating it holds a copy of the 25th May 1979 broadcast. Retrieved 1st Oct '23